Archive for the 'Business and Climate Policy' Category

Science and the Carbon Market

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Science and the Carbon Market

With the change of U.S. administrations, there is renewed discussion of climate change policy. Ideas at the forefront are environmental pollutant markets and tax-based controls. The market-based approach, called cap and trade, is posed in opposition with the tax-based approaches. This polarization is not a useful or correct way to advance policy.

The advocacy of a cap and trade market follows from the success of the sulfur market, which controls acid rain. The amount of pollutant that can be tolerated is informed by scientific investigation. This leads to a “cap” on the amount. (more…)

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

I also write a blog at Since November the number of comments on that blog has exploded. Thousands and thousands of words are being written. Some things in the comments are crude, there is some good argument, and complaints about what might be called the climate change machine. Most of the people who write comments at are people with more than a casual interest in the weather and the environment. They put up maps and figures. It will be interesting to look back on these comments some years from now.

I tried to extract and summarize some of the concepts that were appearing in the comments to the blog. (Here they are.) This blog will address one of the ideas that keeps coming up – uncertainty. There were a number of comments about uncertainty and the fact that our knowledge about climate change is based on model predictions. Several times and in several ways people have said “shouldn’t we wait until we are sure?” (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 3. Changes and Times

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 3. Changes and Times

In the first blog of this series, I introduced the idea that here are both short-term and long-term considerations in the management of climate, and that policies and practices that are part of the short term may or may not be sustained in the long term. The management of climate? Given our population and our use of energy, we are managing the climate. The question is whether or not we do it with cognizance.

If we are to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, then we must examine our sources of energy and its consumption. To reduce the emissions, substantially, requires massive changes throughout society. During elections people always say they want change, but they really want someone else or something else to change. (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 2. Externalities and Evaluation of Connectivity.

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 2. Externalities and Evaluation of Connectivity.

In the first blog of this series, I posed that addressing the climate change problem required a sustained diligence of management. In setting the foundation for that management, I maintained it was important to embrace a portfolio of approaches to the problems and the development of a portfolio of policies and practices that comprise the “solution” to the problem. There are both short-term and long-term considerations, and policies and practices that are part of the short-term may or may not be sustained in the long term.

The climate change problem does not reside in isolation. Concerns about climate change follow from easy consumption of fossil fuels. The climate change problem is tightly correlated with energy use and, therefore, economic success. Energy demand and energy policy are controversial issues independent of any concerns about climate change. Because the time scales of the energy problem are short and because the economic implications are large and tangible, it is natural for energy issues to take prominence over the climate issues. Alternatively, because many of our approaches to address the energy problem are also beneficial to the climate problem, it is easy to fall into the comfort that the climate problem will be solved as a residue of our addressing the energy problem. Energy policy and energy security sit along with climate change as major national and international issues, and solutions to the energy problem do not necessarily address the climate problem. (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 1. A portfolio of approaches and solutions.

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 1. A portfolio of approaches and solutions.

When I worked at NASA most of the scientists had the following statement in their position description, “Solving complex problems with no known solutions.” I’m sure that most of us just looked at this as a set of words contrived in the distance past by human resources. Ultimately I ended up a manager, and by my nature, a student of management. This is first of a series of blogs that consider the “climate change problem” as the management of a complex problem with no known solution.

At the beginning of addressing such a problem, it is important to take an inventory of what you know, and to separate what you know from what you believe and what you think should happen. In the inventory of what you know it is necessary to identify the external factors or communities that are related to or have a vested interest in your problem. For climate change, these externalities would include, for example, energy, public health, and religion. It is also useful to place your problem into the set of similar scale problems, for example, control and treatment of AIDS. This leads to the identification of a system of strongly and weakly interrelated problems, which are each to their own, also complex systems. (more…)

EPA, Massachusetts and Carbon Dioxide

Monday, April 9th, 2007


On Monday, April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court made a decision that impacts what we will do about carbon dioxide. This is from a case called Massachusetts vs EPA, which was brought under the Clean Air Act. Here’s the PDF of the decision. There are a number of important findings from the case. First, the ruling establishes that CO2 is a pollutant – a potentially damaging pollutant. While it does not require that EPA control CO2, it does establish that the EPA has the authority to control CO2 in order to limit damage.

The second important finding from the case is that Massachusetts has established that it will be harmed by climate change, and especially by sea level rise. Once there is the establishment that harm will be done, and that there is a traceable cause of that harm, then there is potentially standing for many plaintiffs to bring suit. (more…)


Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Hello. This is my first blog for First, I want to thank the organizers and the AMS for asking me. Second, as introduction, what I will write about here follows from a class that I have been teaching the last two years at U of Michigan. This class throws all of the pieces out there, science, policy, business, ethics, public health, geo-engineering, energy, current law, beliefs, etc., and tries to look as these pieces as a system. We have projects where we try to develop solutions, or at least strategies to develop solutions. More thanks – I want to thank my excellent students, the guest lecturers in the course, and many seminar speakers who come through the university.

For my first entry I will write about the intersection between climate science and policy. If we look at the development of climate knowledge from scientific investigation, then there are two types of knowledge. The first type of knowledge is a quantitative representation of climate parameters and their correlated behavior. An example of this type of knowledge is a prediction of the temperature, and it is the prediction of rapidly warming temperature that motivates the possibility of climate policy. The other type of knowledge is an estimate of uncertainty. Good scientific method is always accompanied by an analysis of error sources and some measure of the uncertainty. Uncertainty can always be used to prevent the development of policy. Therefore, the idea of climate science as a constant march to reduce uncertainty in our statements of predicted climate change is not very well posed. There is always uncertainty, and in complex systems, we discover new sources of uncertainty. Hence, there is always a reservoir of uncertainty to keep policy from converging around the gravity of scientific evidence. (more…)

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